> I raised a preposterously large topic, and I think Robin's approach of
> breaking it down into modules makes good sense. den Otter's comments about
> automation concur with my own basic utopian/dystopian estimate of the
> imminent collapse of a jobs-based economy, but all he addresses is the
> question of providing basic food, clothing, housing. (And Robin can
> explain why his precise model is economically hopeless anyway.)
Could you (or Robin) be more specific about this alleged hopelessness? Do you mean that the streamlined government wouldn't get enough income from taxes and business (such as gambling, drug sale & other entertainment) to finance the construction and maintainance of the automated factories? The beauty of the system is that it more or less balances itself; better automata may push more and more people out of the job market, but at the same time their increased efficiency makes it possible to support more and more people. The end of the line is a society where anything of any importance is done by machines, while humans can live in greater wealth than anyone today *without doing anything*. Of course, by this time (and probably sooner) SI will emerge and cause the Singularity, which makes further extrapolation pointless.
> But that
> skirts one of the problems I see at the heart of the coming transition -
> the malaise of anomie, far worse than anything the 1950s' sociologists ever
> had nightmares about. As people have remarked before, iirc, the black drug
> culture of inner American cities is not just about getting money to live
> on, it's about creating a meaningful social order, a working power
> hierarchy, all that mafia Godfather stuff - and it apparently isn't working
> all that well even in those terms.
If a new system can provide all citizens of a country with more than enough (cheap) wholesome food, good housing, quality clothing, medical care (automated health checks would beat most doctors even today, and they are dramatically cheaper *and* more userfriendly), and good sanitary facilities, then that would be *major* advance, well worth the effort. Of course, people would then start whining about other things (as most socialist systems have found out in the '60s and '70s, an increased standard of living usually leads to *more* crime, *more* protest and a greater general feeling of discontent -- apparently many people can't handle the increase in freedom too well). So, you'd throw in (almost) free entertainment, mostly via television. Bread and games, some things never change.
To keep the society from being overrun by bored criminal youths, you'd have to spice up the law. Fair yet tough, swift and sure. Of course, state of the art surveillance would be put to good use all over the place, both as deterrent and as hard evidence for speedy trials. Again, quite affordable when mass produced. No need to constantly watch everything, just search the central database using the approximate date and location of the crime, and you'll find your criminal.
Everyone can do what he wants, as long as no others are harmed. Who fails to obey this simple, rational rule, gets removed from society, and in the case of murder removed from existence. That way one of the greatest weaknesses of the (western) socialist systems, a weak justice system, would be remedied.